Leonardo Da Vinci's Drawings Leap Off The Page In This Immense Exhibition
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Leonardo da Vinci. Just the name itself is guaranteed to sell tickets.
Even if you've never stepped foot inside a gallery, you'll know the Renaissance genius — maybe from reading The Da Vinci Code, perhaps from watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. 'Da Vinci' percolates through all layers of culture.
But the team behind a blockbuster exhibition at The Queen's Gallery — adjoining Buckingham Palace — hasn't rested on the Italian polymath's laurels. The Queen has one of the greatest collections of Da Vinci's drawings, and over 200 of them have been expertly assembled for one spectacular exhibition.
The show starts with a self-portrait; this makes sense when you learn Da Vinci's biographers all testified to his good looks. It's true, Leo cuts a dashing figure with his long flowing hair and smooth beard (long before beard oil was a thing). But what really makes me swoon are his delicate ink lines. The exhibition captures the artist's dizzying range: from the projection of artillery fire over a wall, to the rearing of a horse in battle. In everything, you can feel the dynamism fly off the yellowed paper.
The anatomical drawings are his most enchanting; dissections of the forearm and hand are almost identical in their detail to the illustrations in modern textbooks I read at university. That these were drawn over 500 years ago, is mind-blowing.
A lot of the works are studies for Da Vinci's larger paintings, and in an astute move, the gallery places large reproductions on the walls above the drawings. You can lean right in to see the fine detail before stepping back to see where it fits into a larger masterpiece.
Some of the works have faded over time and most are small, so you need to get up close to appreciate them (and, importantly, are allowed to do so). The Saturday afternoon I went involved a lot of gentle jostling; avoid weekends if you can. Otherwise though, there are so many works, you can pick and choose which to hustle for, and spend quality time with. If you can afford it, two hours should be set aside to appreciate the true beauty of these works.
They might be half a millennium old, but they're still bristling with life.
Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace is on until 13 October. Tickets are £13.50 for adults.
Last Updated 28 May 2019